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Israel 'still holding bodies of 250 Palestinians' from as long as 30 years ago

Israeli authorities often withhold bodies of slain Palestinians for use as bargaining chips [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 March, 2018

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The latest count reveals that hundreds of bodies of Palestinians are still being held in Israeli possession, a violation of international law that goes back more than 30 years.
The Israeli authorities continue to hold the bodies of some 250 Palestinians killed by forces, including 24 bodies of Palestinians who died during the First Intifada which began more than 30 years ago, according to new reports.

"The retention of martyr's bodies is one of the biggest and most damaging of crimes on a personal, religious, legal, and moral level committed by the occupying state," the Director of Studies and Documentation at the Council of Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Abdel Nasser Ferwana told al-Urdun al-Yowm, pointing out that Israel is the only power in the world to practice such a crime in the framework of systematic and public policy.

During a press statement delivered on Saturday, Ferwana added that in the latest count, Israel was holding around 250 bodies of Palestinians who died or were killed under various circumstances, some as far back as the seventies, eighties and nineties of last century.

Others meanwhile were Palestinians who had died as recently as the 2014 Gaza War and the "Jerusalem Intifada" of 2015.

Amin al-Bayed, the coordinator of the National Campaign for the Recovery of the Martyr's Bodies, told SAFA news agency that Israeli authorities withhold bodies of Palestinians in many cases to cover up evidence that Palestinians died at the hands of Israel or were executed extrajudicially. 

He also stressed that organs were routinely stolen from Palestinian bodies, such as the case at Tel Aviv's Abu Kabir forensic institute during the nineties which consisted of unauthorised removal of organs, bone and tissue.

Al-Bayed explains that the National Campaign consists of four dimensions: An ongoing legal campaign; public marches and demonstrations; media publicisation of Israel's crimes; and the Palestinian Authority's demands for the return of the bodies.

Israel has also been known to keep bodies of killed Palestinians in order to use them as bargaining chips in times of need. For example, Israeli authorities announced in 2016 it would stop returning bodies until Palestinians in Gaza released the remains of two Israeli soldiers believed to have been killed in a 2014 war in Gaza.

Israeli ministers in December challenged a Supreme Court ruling that the bodies of Palestinians killed during alleged attacks must be released for burial and not used as bargaining chips.

Outraged members of the security cabinet decided that the ruling by Israel's highest court was "unacceptable" and asked it to hold a fresh hearing on the issue.

In February, the Supreme Court ruled that Israel could delay returning bodies until a new ruling is reached. The Israeli government has been given until June to pass a new law on the matter.

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